Menendez: White House offshore drilling plan imperils his climate bill vote

While the administration plan does not open New Jersey’s coast to drilling, Menendez is fearful that his state’s tourism and fishing industries would be imperiled by an oil spill from production south of the state’s shore.

The Interior Department plans to proceed with the sale of leases 50 miles off Virginia’s coast by 2012, and envisions other potential lease sales off the coasts of mid-Atlantic and southeastern states in the 2012-2017 period. Menendez, in a March 31 statement, said at the very least New Jersey should have a 125-mile no-drilling buffer.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a co-author of the upcoming Senate climate and energy bill, dismissed the idea of curtailing the White House drilling plan. Many Republicans, including Graham, have called for wider offshore drilling than the White House program allows.

“I understand environmental sensitivity, I live in a coastal state. But most Americans are ready to drill responsibly, and if this bill doesn’t allow that, then I don’t think it is going to pass,” Graham told reporters Tuesday.


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